Al-Jazeera played a major role in the Egyptian revolution and the downfall of Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak's resignation as president of Egypt demonstrates once again that Al-Jazeera has become a beacon for freedom in the Arab world.
The Qatar-based news agency, which was founded in 1996, has often been lambasted in the West in its early years for giving a platform to Osama bin Laden. This most notably occurred during a 90-minute broadcast in June 1999.
But the story isn't quite so simple as it has often been characterized. In their 2002 book Al-Jazeera: How the Free Arab News Network Scooped the World and Changed the Middle East, Egyptian-born authors Mohammed el-Nawawy and Adel Iskander (who later became a Canadian) pointed out that unlike other Arab stations, Al-Jazeera "airs full interviews with Israeli officials, an absolute taboo by most Arab media standards".
Al-Jazeera's coverage of the Tunisian revolution emboldened Egyptians to come out into the streets to protest Mubarak's regime.
Once again, Al-Jazeera was relentless in exposing repression. Mubarak's thugs were so enraged by the agency's reports that Al-Jazeera's correspondents had to file their reports anonymously to avoid being beaten.
"Al-Jazeera's seemingly evenhanded reporting and uninhibited critique of authoritarian regimes have rattled the Arab world," el-Nawawy and Iskander wrote back in 2002. "Rumor has it that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, during a trip to Qatar in January 2000, paid an uninvited visit to the Al-Jazeera studios sometime after midnight."
According to their book, Mubarak surveyed the facility and told his minister of information: "All this trouble from a matchbox like this!"
In an unprecedented move for a television network, this "matchbox" made its photos of recent street protests available to the world.
This act of generosity enabled independent media outlets like the Georgia Straight to bring images of the protests to their readers.
El-Nawawy and Iskander posed an intriguing question in their book: given the role of satellite networks in undermining dictatorships, why hasn't there been a backlash by Arab regimes against the government of Qatar for hosting Al-Jazeera?
"The reason probably lies in the Qatari government's lack of interference in the network's affairs," they wrote. "The government absolves itself of any charges, saying it has nothing to do with the contents on Al-Jazeera."
They prophetically added: "However, given the current conditions in the Middle East, Al-Jazeera will continue to be a thorn in the side of many Arab regimes."
Today, the people of Egypt are celebrating the demise of their former dictator. They might also want to take a few moments to give thanks the Arab news agency that helped make this become a reality.